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DIFFERENT STROKES

Camille Walala

28th Jan 2016

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After years of being told that we should ‘believe in beige’, things are changing. Boldly taking us to new places is Camille Walala …

What began as a quiet renaissance of the art group known as the Memphis Movement, has turned into a newly discovered collective love of colour that is sweeping the UK. At its heart is a French designer, Camille Walala. Though you may not know Walala, chances are you’ll know her designs. Inspired by the founder of Memphis, Ettore Soxttsass, Walala’s designs fly at you from the page like a champagne cork from a bottle. Her murals currently decorate the façade of several east London buildings, and her homewares are sold at London boutique Aria. A product designer, art director, interior designer and digital artist, Walala honed her considerable talent at Brighton College of Art and has been enticing us with a wash of colour and graphic design ever since.

Camille, how did 2015 treat you? What were you most proud of?
There’s a building in Old Street which has a façade of four floors that I was privately commissioned to paint. It’s the largest mural I’ve been charged with and took eight people four days to paint, and a further two people an extra day to finish off. We needed a cherry picker to reach the top of the building as it was 15m high. Before it was a very dull and uninspiring building and I hope we have made it better. The building is close to a local primary school and so the children also got involved. It has been my favourite community project to date.

Your work is gaining a reputation as highly original and happy art. What inspires you on a daily basis?
I didn’t look for anything in particular, I like to play around with ideas but I think some inspiration comes from the architecture of a building and the shapes that it throws. My father is an architect, so he taught me about architecture from an early age. Through my work I like to give buildings some extra dynamism which is why I add features like cross angles, as they draw the eye away from the sharp external lines. I love optical illusion and in particular I like the work of Bridget Riley. She is very talented.

Talk us through one of your designs from concept to public unveiling.
I have to work everything out to a proper scale when my work is to appear on the side of a building. The way I do this is to take a picture of the building and then do a mock up directly onto that image so that I can see what it might look like. Then I can begin to work out the scale, the materials, the manpower and the approach. I don’t look to put meaning into my art. It’s more about how it looks and how it makes people feel.

You are fast covering all available street façades in East London with your work. How has it been received?
I think well. I don’t have an agent and so I get contacted directly for private commissions. The work keeps on coming and so I think perhaps people like what I do.

What has been your most ambitious project to date?
I think it’s a project that I haven’t yet started - the interior of the Quark Gallery in Geneva - espacequark.ch. This commission will really take me out of my comfort zone. As the gallery exhibits the work of many artists that I admire, I really want my work to be amazing.

What does 2016 hold for you?
Aside from the Quark Gallery commission, I am doing a collaboration with Floor Story - floorstory.co.uk - to create several geometric rugs. This will be my first rug project so I am very excited. I have also arranged an exhibition of my work but it is too soon to say anything more about this. Aside from that am looking at a department store project in central London and also three installations for private residential homes.

We’ve seen artworks, textiles, ceramics and decorative accessories all adorned with your designs. What’s next in homewares from the Walala hit factory? 
I really want to launch my own brand of textiles. I think for those who want to lift their interiors with fun design, my fabric would be perfect. I am in the very early stages of development.

Is your own home a riot of pattern and colour?
Not as much as I would perhaps like. I am in a rented property right now but I have a great landlord who doesn’t mind what I do in his flat. The décor was already quite bright but I’ve added my own touches by taking out the carpet and painting the floor and walls white. My sitting room has a yellow striped wall and huge mirrors.

My father is an architect in Paris and his mantra is to keep things minimal. My mother lives in the south of France and so her house is the complete opposite, lots of colour and texture. I like to mix both – the plain defined architecture with bold colour furniture and accessories.

Which building, artwork or piece of design do you covet most?
I love anything designed by Ray and Charles Eames. I saw their recent retrospective at The Barbican which was incredible. They were the most inspiring couple who have really left their mark on the world.

Tell us about you and your local area?
I live very close to Borough Market, which is such a feast for the senses, lots of colour and shape, people and life going on. It’s very creative and I love being close to the river.

What are your favourite places?
My favourite place is Towpath café on the Regent’s Canal where I go for breakfast. There is also a great deli called Cabouche – it was one of the first to open in Borough Market. I also love the E5 Bakehouse in Victoria Park. It is owned by people who are really passionate about bread.

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

If you were a colour what would you be?
Very strong blue.

What’s your favourite gallery?
I love The Tate and The Barbican in equal measure.

What’s the ideal age to be?
I think 40. It took me a long time to decide what I wanted to do. Now I know I am in the right field. I’m comfortable and happy with what I’m doing.

Which famous person would you like to paint for?
I would love to do a collaboration with Ray and Charles Eames

‘Zero Tolerance’ or ‘Life’s too Short’?
‘Life’s too Short’.

Talk or text?
Talking. We should all talk more to each other.

Most read book?
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.

Life motto?
Long Life in the Sunshine.

Camille Walala; camillewalala.com

@camille_walala
@camillewalala